The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

Camp NaNoWriMo – Go Big – Day 5

Go Big - A Camp NaNoWriMo Adventure - Day 5

For those keeping score at home, my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo was to write, edit, cover, and publish two novellas (about 25k words each) before the end of July. So, where are we now?

I don’t know where you are, but I’m killing it. It took a few nights of writing until 4 am to get back into the groove, but now I’ve hit my stride. I’m trusting my outline and writing some fresh new material that has me really excited. Thanks to ubiquitous writing tools–seriously, I can’t go into any room of this house without laying eyes on at least one of my trusty writing appliances–and public accountability, I’m writing better than I have in months.

None of this is surprising to me. When I was a freelance writer and got paid by the word I had the same habits. I was never without a notebook, I always kept my laptop with my current projects nearby, and I made sure that everyone I knew was aware of what I was working on and how I was progressing. Admittedly, this was back before the days when voice-recognition was worth a shit and my laptop was a 17-inch behemoth that required two porters to carry, but the theory was the same. The less friction there was in my writing routine, the more writing I got done. Back then that meant keeping my laptop running 24 hours a day and not letting it sleep unless I was traveling with it so that it would always be ready to accept my words.

These days, it means keeping a half-dozen gadgets scattered around the house and as many notebooks tucked into my satchels and pockets. What can I say, I’m getting older, and I need things to be as easy as possible for me if I’m going to be able to get shit done.

DAY FIVE: Writing All the Things (And Then Some)

Today the goal was to hit 5,000 words. That happened around 3 o’clock this afternoon after my second writing session of the day. By 5 o’clock I was ready to have another writing sprint and managed to push my word count all the way to 7,500 words. All that seems pretty awesome, and I can’t complain about the number of words hitting the page, but the maximum length of the novella is getting a little out of control. There were some scenes I needed to squeeze into my outline and some scenes that ran long and at least one flashback that I wanted to put in just because it was so fucking brutal that I would never forgive myself if I couldn’t get it in their. This manuscript is giving me all the feels so I’m guessing that instead of 25,000 words, it’s probably going to come in somewhere closer to 30,000 words. Now, I could be wrong because I’m often wrong about these things. I’m heading into the final stretch (in case you’re counting, I’m at 20,000 words out of the 25,000 I’d planned) and my chapters tend to get shorter and meaner as I near the climax. Given that this is a novella with chapters that are already pretty short, it’s feasible that the remaining six or so  chapters might only come in at 1000 words apiece, which means I won’t overshoot my goal by that much.

Which is important. I’m trying to make a go of writing professionally, which means I need to have control over what I’m doing. My projects need to be planned and they need to come in at the word count I’m expecting. Not only for scheduling purposes, but also stay on budget. Editors schedule their work based on what we authors tell them and my beta readers do not have unlimited time to look over my manuscripts. Having a 25,000 word novella swell to 30,000 words probably isn’t going to break anything, but if it keeps happening and I keep exploding the word count on my longer works, that makes my life harder and makes everyone else’s life harder as well. The last thing I want is for my team to have any more difficulty with my work than they already do. Nobody likes a pain in the ass.

So, lots of words. Yay.

Maybe too many words. Boo. Hiss.


The holiday is over. The real test for all of this shit is what happens once I go back to the day job. My goal, then, is to go for about 2500 words on the days when I’m working. Based on the speed I’ve been reaching over the past few days, that is about two uninterrupted hours of banging the keys or a little more than an hour talking to the Dragon. I think that’s doable. If I mark off my evening after 10 PM for writing, that gives me a pretty solid three hours before I need to start thinking about heading for bed. It’s not ideal to do all of your writing at the end of a long day, but I’ve always been something of a night owl and I turn out so my best work just before sleepy time.

I may try to squeeze in some writing during my lunch hour as well, but that’s a little trickier for a lot of reasons. Anyway, that’s the goal: 2500 words tomorrow and 2500 more words every day after until both books are done.

Looking Forward

I try not to edit too much during the first draft phase of any project, but it’s been a while since I speed drafted anything so I’ve been poking around looking at what’s written so far. I’m pretty happy with what I see. I’d say the Dragon is hitting around 98% accuracy which is pretty goddamn phenomenal considering the fact that I spend virtually no time training with it. It seems to be picking up better on the phrases that I use and the word choices that are most common for me and no longer fucks them up quite as much. Some things are still a giant pain in the asked like “him” and “them” which it confuses pretty much every time I’m dictating at speed. That may not be the software it may just be my speech patterns. It’s something I’m still struggling with, and if any of you have any ideas on how to beat it I’d greatly appreciate it.

If I can maintain a minimum of 2500 words every day that means the drafting for novella number one will be done by July 7. As long as nothing is too terrible it will only take me a couple of days to revise the first draft and get it to my beta readers by July 10. They’re promising to turn these around quickly, so I’m hoping I can get their notes back and incorporate them into the manuscript before sending it off to my editor by July 13.

During that same period, I’ll be drafting novella number two so that I can start the first draft while my beta readers and editor are looking at novella number one. The expectation is that I will be able to start actual writing on novella number two on July 10. Given that I’m back at work, I’m going to allot myself a word count of 2500 words each day from July 10 through July 20 to get the second novella drafted. The lower word count will give me time to go back and do a little bit of editing so that I should only need one day to clean up the second novella and get it out to my beta readers by July 21. So we do a couple days of editing from the beta notes and then it’s back to Jason on July 23. I don’t expect him to work on the weekends, so maybe I get that manuscript back on the 27th or the 28th. That leaves me a day or two to do revisions and send back to the editor for one more pass.

Well, would you look at that. If everything goes according to plan then I will have to finish manuscripts ready to upload to Amazon before July 31.

This probably seems like a pretty tight bit of scheduling, and it really is. But I’m giving myself an average of 2500 words to write during the week and I’m pretty sure I can beat that. What you’re looking at above is the worst-case scenario in my opinion but I guess we’ll see what happens.

You’ll notice I don’t have any cover art time penciled in their, and I’ll be talking about why that is over the next couple of days. Short answer: Cover art doesn’t take much of my time because it gets contracted out. Longer answer to come.

Glide Path

20,116 words. That’s pretty goddamn good for three days. And I didn’t even have to stay up until 4 AM tonight to get it done.

Just until 2 AM. I’m going to call that good and leave you with the eloquent word of Mr. Charles Sheen.


About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.